DF/HCC eNews
DF/HCC eNews www.dfhcc.harvard.edu June/July/August 2006
DF/HCC eNews

Spotlight on PI3-Kinase News and Events
Foci of Cancer Research
Discoveries Now
More on Cores New Faces
Nodes and Synergies Save the Date




Cell-signaling pathway on verge of clinical trials


For more than two decades, DF/HCC laboratory researchers have been homing in on a signaling network that genes and cells use to talk to each other — the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway. This signaling pathway relates to a wide range of disease-based solid tumors: breast, colon, glioma, melanoma, prostate, ovarian, head and neck. It is an opportune pathway for pharmaceutical intervention in cancer, offering a target for drug companies to develop inhibitors. Cancer medicine is now at the cusp of an exciting new era as these findings evolve into clinical studies using “smart” drugs that target specific elements in the pathway. Among scientists leading this effort are Lewis Cantley, PhD, chief of the BIDMC Division of Signal Transduction and DF/HCC deputy associate director of Basic Science, and Thomas Roberts, PhD, chair of the DFCI Department of Cancer Biology. Together, they discovered the PI3K enzyme and its role in cancer in the mid-1980s.The PI3K pathway is now known as a key player in cancer and is being studied from every angle by research teams around the globe. Within DF/HCC, intense research efforts are underway — including several collaborative NCI program project grants in solid tumors involving the PI3K pathway. more





MGH Cancer Center at forefront of cancer research
  In just 15 years since its formal inception, the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center has evolved into an international leader in cancer research and care. At the core of this expanding enterprise is a passionate group of specialists who integrate their work across the "super-city" of MGH, renowned worldwide for medical innovation and excellence in care. "We aim to treat the patient as a whole, providing on-site access to the various specialists required to treat and support cancer patients," says center director Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, who also heads the Cancer Genetics Program at DF/HCC. "We actively reach out to the rich environment that is so extraordinary at MGH, from the medical, surgical, radiation and pediatric oncologists who form the core of cancer care, to the experts in neurology, endocrinology, orthopedics, radiology, psychiatry and all the other superb hospital disciplines. Likewise in basic research, investigators in our Center for Cancer Research can interact with the scientists in other MGH departments, from Molecular Biology, Molecular Imaging, and Bioengineering to the newly created Thematic Centers in Genetics, Regenerative (Stem Cell) Medicine, Computational Biology, Photobiology and Systems Biology." more




Access custom SNP genotyping via web-based system


With several years’ operational experience, the Harvard-Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics offers high-quality custom SNP genotyping and is now designated as a high throughput genotyping facility for DF/HCC investigators. Among services: DNA isolation from cheek cells and WGA, custom primer and assay design through production of genotypes, including assistance with SNP selection and choice of platform, selection based on the sample number and SNPs to be targeted. Steps involved are highly automated and tracked via a laboratory management system with bar coding. Each project is priced independently, and a quote can be generated quickly for any investigator. Results are provided in electronic format via our web-based order-entry system, GIGPAD. Platforms for up to 10,000 genomic DNA samples include Taqman, Sequenom hME and iPLEX, Illumina GoldenGate Custom and Standard Panels, and Affymetrix SNP Arrays. For more information, please visit our website or contact Alison Brown at (617) 768-8470, Hardeep Ranu (Taqman Genotyping) at (617) 432 4469 or Vance Morgan (617) 768-8518.



Optimize clinical studies with tumor imaging analysis


“For accurate and timely analysis of CT, MR and PET imaging studies, we invite DF/HCC investigators to use the Tumor Imaging Metrics Core (TIMC),” says core manager Bill Hanlon (in photo at right with image analyst Vaibhav Sahai, MD, left). “Our team provides consistent, standardized, longitudinal radiological measurements for clinical trials; also protocol consultation to assist with optimizing the trial design of image analysis methods.” Standardized measurements include linear (RECIST, WHO, Cheson), volumetric and Standardized Uptake Value (SUV) for PET scans — all reviewed by Harvard faculty radiologists. Results of analyses are stored in the TIMC database and available for viewing or downloading by authorized trial staff on a secure website. Radiology exams are transferred from DF/HCC institutions' Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) to the TIMC for processing and storage.



Enhance your research with dynamic surveys


Do you want to include a behavioral or psychosocial component to your research? Need help with survey design or implementation? Would your grant application benefit by adding a quality-of-life outcome measure? The Survey and Measurement Core (SMC) can help. “We have nearly 100 measures commonly used by cancer researchers, and we’re always updating,” says SMC director Laura Kubzansky, PhD, MPH. In addition, the SMC assists with survey development and implementation, grant preparation and IRB applications, interviewer training and focus-group research. "The SMC’s services were essential to the preparation of my NIH grant, filling a fundamental gap in expertise required to perform the proposed research,” says Lisa Iezzoni, MD, MSc (BIDMC).  Among advantages of working with the SMC is their customized approach. “If a client cannot find an appropriate tool, we can work with them to design and test their own survey,” says core manager Virginia Casey, PhD, MPH.




New tailored-information tool for cancer patients

  A dynamic interactive website is being developed for cancer patients and their families. “It will address an unmet need of cancer patients and their families to get accurate and useable information about diagnosis and treatment options, allowing them to participate more actively with their clinicians in the treatment decision-making process,” says project director Thomas Keegan, PhD (HMS). An initiative of Cancer Care in Massachusetts (see related story, this issue), the project is titled the Tailored Information Project. It is a collaboration of the HMS Department of Health Care Policy, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), the TRICARE health insurance program for military personnel and their families, and Westat, a firm that provides survey research, healthcare information technology and policy analysis. Based on NCCN guidelines, the website will be tailored to the user’s specific characteristics such as age, cancer stage and prior treatment. Initial pilot testing of this tool is planned for a U.S. army medical center this fall. For more information, contact keegan@hcp.med.harvard.edu.


Pipeline series showcases up-and-coming cancer drugs


The “Pipelines in Oncology” series is a unique forum for DF/HCC faculty and the extended Harvard medical community to learn about promising projects and products in the oncology pipeline of the pharmaceutical/biotech industry. “By developing closer working relationships with these companies, the drug discovery and development process clearly benefits,” says clinical research program manager Petra Loesch, MS (MGH). At the seminars, companies present their rationale for choosing new clinical candidates and the pre-clinical or early clinical background data on anti-tumor activity, pharmacokinetics and toxicity. One-on-one discussions with DF/HCC investigators provide an opportunity to capitalize on ideas for cutting-edge clinical studies. Also, during an informal luncheon, postdoctoral research and clinical fellows discuss research and drug development, network with company leaders and learn about industry careers. Since the series’ inception in 2005, presenting firms include GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Aventis, Wyeth, Kosan Biosciences, Eli Lilly, Biogen Idec, Abraxis Bioscience, AstraZeneca, Millenium and Bristol-Myers Squibb. For more information, contact ploesch@partners.org.



DF/HCC launches new and improved website  

  Built primarily by and for Harvard’s cancer  researchers, DF/HCC’s newly launched website has many new features and benefits. A regularly updated Funding Support Center apprises members of grant opportunities and provides tools for navigating through and succeeding in the complicated world of grants procurement. Other user-friendly tools help members, share success stories, post  announcements and create a vibrant online community with DF/HCC colleagues. A powerful search engine allows users to quickly find news, services, and information. The site also facilitates networking across all seven institutions by providing organization charts, individual contact information, meeting locations, event listings, institutional maps and transportation  guides. Secure areas for members include DF/’HCC-specific grant  information, mentoring opportunities, clinical research policies and protocols, industry liaisons, and specific areas of scientific  interest. To register for secure areas, visit the home page http://www.dfhcc.harvard.edu/ and click “register for an account.” We welcome your questions and feedback, directed to DFHCC Webmaster.



DF/HCC "Pipelines in Oncology"


Note:  These presentations are designated for DF/HCC members only.


September 21


4:00  to 6:00 p.m.

Haber Room, MGH  (videoconference to Dana 1620, DFCI)


October 19


4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Dana 1620, DFCI  (videoconference to Haber Room, MGH)


November 16


4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Haber Room, MGH  (videoconference to Dana 1620, DFCI)


December 19


4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Dana 1620, DFCI  (videoconference to Haber Room, MGH)


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Brugge in top 9 women in cancer research

In concert with the American Cancer Society, PINK magazine’s June/July edition has named Joan Brugge, PhD, chair of Cell Biology at HMS, one of the top nine women in cancer research. A member of the DF/HCC Breast Cancer and Cancer Cell Biology programs, Brugge’s research is focused on identifying genes that regulate the initiation and progression of breast cancer. Her research includes the use of a cell culture model in which cells organize into structures resembling the small gland-like units of the human breast. She is working with Joshua Labaer’s group in the Harvard Institute of Proteomics (HIP) to assemble and evaluate more than 1,000 human genes associated with breast cancer, now publicly available for cancer researchers.

Workshop wrestles with cancer disparities

About 60 participants attended a full-day DF/HCC workshop titled “Diversity, Disparities and Research Design: Concerns for all Cancer Researchers,” presented June 20 by the Cancer Disparities Program-in-Development. "Keynote speaker was Olufunmilayo Olopade, MD, director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago Medical Center, a leader in translating basic research into clinical practice to serve African and African-American women at risk for, or diagnosed with, breast cancer. DF/HCC members Matthew Freedman, MD (MGH), Nancy Krieger, PhD (HSPH), and Lowell Schnipper, MD (BIDMC) [in photo at right] led discussions about understanding cancer disparities.


Ayanian joins leadership of Cancer Care in Massachusetts

John Ayanian, MD, has joined DF/HCC’s Cancer Care in Massachusetts (CAMA) project, working as co-principal investigator with Jane Weeks, MD. The CAMA project focuses on identifying barriers to high-quality care, developing systems for more efficient and timely data on cancer care quality, and providing better information to physicians and patients to assist in treatment decision-making (see related article, this issue). Ayanian’s research focuses on the effect of patients’ race, ethnicity, gender, insurance coverage and socioeconomic factors on access to care and clinical outcomes; also the impact of physicians’ specialty and organizational characteristics on the quality of care. He is a principal investigator in the Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance (CanCORS) Consortium.


Kaelin honored at AACR meeting

In recognition of his world-class accomplishments in cancer research, William G. Kaelin Jr., MD (DFCI/BWH), leader of the DF/HCC Cancer Cell Biology Program, received the prestigious Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research held in April. The award honors researchers who have made notable contributions to improved clinical care in the field of cancer. Kaelin was cited for his discoveries relating to the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL), work that is laying the foundation for novel anticancer strategies. 



For details, click on links.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
New robotic tool for precision in cancer radiation

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Vaccine for human papiloma virus, cervical cancer

Children’s Hospital Boston

Innovative model for studying a deadly brain cancer

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Scientists tie several cancers to common "oncogene engine"

Harvard Medical School

Folkman wins 18th Annual Warren Alpert Foundation

Harvard School of Public Health

Four factors you may not know in skin cancer risk

Massachusetts General Hospital

New diagnostics and treatment strategies for lung cancer



Forty-four new members join DF/HCC community

Since April, 44 iindividuals from our seven members institutions and academic partners have joined DF/HCC — bringing a wide of expertise to the effort to conquer cancer. To view their names, program affiliations and their areas of expertise, click here.

Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center
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